John Jay College Report Tracks Sharp Decrease in Admissions to New York City Jails

John Jay College Report Tracks Sharp Decrease in Admissions to New York City Jails

John Jay College Report Tracks Sharp Decrease in Admissions to New York City Jails

December 13, 2016, New York, NY – The Misdemeanor Justice Project (MJP) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice released a report today on individuals admitted to the custody of New York City Department of Correction (DOC) from 1995 to 2015. The report found that during a period when jail admissions have doubled nationwide, New York City jail admissions dropped by nearly half. This dramatic decline in jail admissions occurred against the backdrop of a simultaneous decrease in reported crime of more than 60 percent.

This report is being released in the midst of a recent focus on issues involving pretrial incarceration across the country. National organizations and advocacy groups are looking to reduce jail populations. Mayor DeBlasio has made significant investments in improving conditions in the City’s jails and bringing efficiencies to case processing.  Comptroller Stringer has released reports on safety issues, staffing patterns and expenditures in the Department of Correction.  Speaker Mark-Viverito has created a Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, led by former Chief Judge Lippman to look at pretrial detention practices and the viability of closing Rikers. In this context, an understanding of the dynamics of the dramatic decline in jail admissions is necessary to develop strategies for further reductions.

“The report, which focuses on the “front door” of the City’s correctional system, creates a framework for the policy discourse on ways to reduce the City’s pretrial detention population,” said Jeremy Travis, President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Taken together with analyses showing the long-term drop in crime rates and the more recent decline in enforcement practices, this study, which documents a significant decline in admissions to the City’s jails, suggests the emergence of a criminal justice system in our City that is far less intrusive in the lives of New Yorkers, particularly for young men of color, without a parallel increase in crime.”

Chief Judge Lippman noted: "The dynamic surrounding jail admissions is a complex and often misunderstood part of our criminal justice system. This new report produced by the John Jay research team provides invaluable insights around jail admissions and will provide a useful reference point for our Commission as we formulate our recommendations for pretrial detention and sentencing in New York City. On behalf of the Commission, I want to thank the researchers at John Jay for their thoughtful research on such an important issue."

"This report represents a valuable addition to the public data about the NYC Department of Correction," said Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte. "We look forward to the further research and insights its publication will spark."

The report, Trends in Admission to New York City Department of Correction, 1995-2015, offers an in-depth portrait of jail admissions, breaking out the data by demographics (i.e. gender, age, and race), legal status, and criminal charges, and contextualizes admissions by examining those characteristics to see how they have changed over the past two decades.

The following findings are particularly noteworthy:

  • From 1995 to 2015, the number of annual admissions to the New York City DOC dropped by 46.9 percent, from 121,328 to 64,458.


  • The decline was not evenly distributed by the age of those admitted: the admission rate for 16-to-17-year-olds declined by 76.0 percent; for 18-to-20-year-olds, 61.1 percent; for 21-to-24-year-olds, 48.1 percent; and for 25-to-34-year-olds, 60.9 percent. For those 35 years and older, the admission rate dropped by 36.5 percent.


  • Within some crime categories, the drop in number of admissions was particularly striking: for felony admissions, the decline was most pronounced for drug sale charges, which dropped by 81.7 percent, and drug possession charges, which declined by 67.6 percent. Admissions for robbery charges declined by 60.0 percent.


  • For Hispanics males, there was an 86.6 percent decline in the rate of admissions for felony drug sale charges, a 79.7 percent decline for felony drug possession charges, and a 70.9 percent decline for robbery charges between 1995 and 2015.  Black males followed a similar pattern.  Further, 16-to-17-year-old males experienced the steepest decreases, with a 98.5 percent decline in the felony drug sale admissions rate, a 97.4 percent decline in felony drug possession admissions rate, and a 72.4 decline in the robbery admissions rate.


  • In 1995, admissions for violent crime charges (i.e., murder, rape, robbery, and felony assault) for 16-to-17-year-olds represented 38.7 percent of all admissions for that age group. This increased to nearly half (48.6 percent) by 2015. In contrast, admissions for violent crime charges stayed about the same for those 35 and older, from 8.3 percent in 1995 to 8.7 percent in 2015.


It is important to note that the report examines criminal justice trends as a matter of rate, as well as absolute numbers.  This means that the trends in admissions to DOC custody documented in this report can also be described by age, race and gender in relation to the representation of those groups in the general population.

"John Jay’s invaluable insights in to crime and incarceration trends in New York City are definitive proof that our criminal justice principles — lower crime through community outreach and precision policing, while not limiting civil rights or resorting to increased imprisonment — are working,” said Richard Aborn, President of the Citizens Crime Commission. “This report is the latest piece of the puzzle: demonstrating that a big city can have both historically low crime and a historically low incarcerated population at the same time. This is an example other cities and our federal government can, and should, learn from—and they need look no further for hard evidence than John Jay’s excellent research.”

The complete data analyses are documented in a full report which is available here.

With funding by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), this is the fifth report prepared by the Misdemeanor Justice Project, a research initiative at John Jay College headed by Professor Preeti Chauhan that includes faculty, graduate students and staff.

“Arrests for lower-level offenses represent the highest-volume gateway into the criminal justice system,” LJAF Vice President of Criminal Justice Matt Alsdorf explained. “Understanding who is entering our jails is critical to shaping policy and practice at the front end of the system. The Misdemeanor Justice Project continues to build local capacity for making relevant, data-driven policies by providing quality analyses for criminal justice practitioners.”

Previous MJP reports have focused on trends in police enforcement practices, with published reports examining misdemeanor arrests, criminal summonses, pedestrian stops, and the mobility of individuals arrested for misdemeanors. This report shifts the MJP’s attention to trend in corrections and will result in a second report due out in 2017 that will focus on the outcomes for those who have been admitted to the New York City correctional system.  All reports are part of a series of reports released with the Citizens Crime Commission.

To access all the MJP reports, please visit the website at



New York Daily News
January 20, 2017
A Needed Reprieve for Young N.Y. Men: Police Enforcement Actions are Way, Way Down
Op-ed by President Jeremy Travis and Professor Preeti Chauhan

The Chief Leader
December 19, 2016
Younger Inmates Top Decline in Population At Rikers Since ’95

About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations.  In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit